"More than machinery, we need humanity."
[Content Note on all the below for discussion of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape.]
A Canadian media personality, Jian Ghomeshi, has been making news over the last week or so, and not for good reasons. He was fired by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the CBC. A number of women, at first anonymously, but some now publicly, have accused him of sexually assaulting them. In response to being fired, Ghomeshi is suing the CBC for $55 million, saying that everything he did was consensual kink. (Which, like Thomas at the Yes Means Yes blog, I’m not buying.)
In our own little library world, we have the ongoing #teamharpy story. This dude, Joe Murphy, with whom I’m not familiar, but who is apparently a Big Deal on the conference circuit, has a reputation among women in the field as being a sexual harasser, and women had long been warning each other about him (women have been doing the same about Ghomeshi). Months ago, Lisa Rabey tweeted about him, and then nina de jesus wrote a blog post about it. Both are also librarians. Murphy is now suing them for defamation, and wants over a million dollars in damages.
How, oh how, dear readers, are we ever to decide what we think about either of these cases? Who shall we believe? We have, after all, only the words of these women as evidence.
Now, that’s good enough for me on a philosophical & political level, because I believe women. But it is also good enough on a social scientific level and a statistical level. If you were searching for good arguments for supporting all these women, here they are. If you were inclined to disbelieve them, you were probably already kind of a shit. If, after reading & processing the following information, you still refuse to go over to the sides of #teamharpy & Ghomeshi’s accusers, you are a rank misogynist & I wouldn’t want to be alone in a room with you. (Well, actually, you should avoid being alone in a room with me, because homie don’t play that.)
Let’s talk for a minute about rape statistics. I wonder how often rape is falsely reported. Well, the US Justice Department has said it’s only about 2% of the time, which is similar to other violent crimes. So, if someone says they’ve been raped, there’s a 98% chance they are telling the truth. If you continue to bet on that other 2%, you should probably never gamble. You are also doing bad science, since the percent of true reports is statistically significant. Even if you take as true the higher percentages of false reports that some studies have found, 10%, say, you still have worse odds than in Russian roulette.
But, “I love an underdog,” you say, trying to find any reason at all, however specious, to continue supporting harassers and assaulters and rapers. I’ve got news for you, in case you haven’t been living in the same culture as the rest of us, your side is not the underdog.
Despite statistics that tell us that people who say they’ve been raped are overwhelmingly telling the truth, you may have noted a dearth of people convicted and serving time for rape and sexual assault. In fact, only about 3% of rapists will ever serve time; only 40% of rapes are reported (which I strongly suspect is way too high; I know an awful lot of people who’ve been raped, and can’t think of a single one who reported to police; considering that the majority of rapes are “acquaintance rape,” I suspect most of these are quietly sept under the rug and never make it into statistics of any kind), then only a fifth of those reported are prosecuted, and then only half of those prosecuted will lead to conviction, and only 75% of convictions will lead to incarceration (and an awful lot of sentences are very short). [Note: I’m not so big on police & prisons, so I’m merely describing the current situation. I also firmly believe that each victim/survivor can make their own decisions about reporting, etc.] It is kind of a tidy inversion, that the percents of false reports and the number of jail & prison sentences are so similar; it illustrates just how full of shit are those who shriek about how all these falsely accused men are rotting in prison at the behest of vengeful women.
Rather, there are all of these dangerous men running around, having committed violent gender-based crimes. What’s more, those men are very likely to continue to commit the same crime. We know this. Men tell us this themselves. Between 6% and 13% of men will rape at least once. And about two-thirds of men who rape once will do it again, and some will do it over and over and over. And over.
But, you ask, why the gap between those two set of statistics? Why the chasm between rates of truth-telling on the part of victims & survivors, and rates of conviction of rapists, especially considering that removing a rapist’s access to potential victims would go a long way towards preventing rape? Well, my dears, in that deep dark chasm lives rape culture, which is actually just our culture, in which we are constantly soaking. It is our culture, and unless we intentionally do otherwise, it is we who make that difference possible.
So, if a woman says she was raped or assaulted by a man, it’s probably true. And if two women say they’ve been assaulted by that guy, it’s almost certainly true. And as three, four, five women say that he’s raped or assaulted them, the chance that he has not committed rape or assault quickly approaches zero. In practical terms, this means you must believe the growing number of women who have said Ghomeshi assaulted them, and when someone says they don’t believe them, you have to say you do. It means that you also have to believe the eight Black women who say they were raped by the same cop in Oklahoma. It also means that if you are a librarian, you must be on #teamharpy.